Natalie Decker back on track after hospitalization
Natalie Decker was back behind the wheel a few days after being released from the hospital, in a rain-shortened NASCAR Trucks race at Kentucky Speedway.
Wisconsin's lady Natalie Decker proved her tough character and determination when she appeared at the latest NASCAR Trucks Series round literally few days after being released from hospital for complications related to the gallbladder surgery that she had last December and that had forced her to miss last weekend's race at Pocono.
“It was such a bummer to miss last week at Pocono Raceway,” said Natalie.
"I’m feeling much better and I am ready to get back to the track with our N29 Capital Partners/REMarkable Pillow Chevrolet Silverado and my Niece Motorsports team. I know everyone has been working hard to prepare this truck, and I’m excited to get on track.”
The weather forecast in the hours just prior to the race start had already raised doubts about the event's schedule, but despite the black and threatening skies, the Kentucky round saw the green flag.
Brett Moffith had a good start from the lead, followed by Sheldon Creed and Christian Eckes, with Decker running in P17 - but the race action didn't last long.
Boyd's #20 car released smoke from the engine and the race was immediately interrupted by the first caution. In the opening 22 laps, the yellow flag was waved two more times.
When finally the race went back to green for some action, Decker was able to get a positive restart and moved past Clay Greenfield for P18, while Zane Smith took the lead of the group moving up on Moffitt.
The two leaders built a comfortable gap from the rest of the field and battled for the leadership until an exciting side-by-side fight with 2 laps remaining before the end of Stage 1. Califonian Zane Smith won the battle and took home the first stage ahead of Brett Moffitt, Sheldon Creed, Christian Eckes, Tyler Ankrum, Todd Gilliland, Grant Enfinger, Derek Kraus, Tyler Hill and Spencer Davis, who completed the top ten. Natalie Decker ended the first stage in P18.
Parker Kligerman, Matt Crafton, Ben Rhodes e Austin Wayne Self rejoined the track leading the group at the start of the second stage, just as a penalty was inflicted to Moffitt for excessive speed in pit road.
In the laps following the restart, Kligerman and Rhodes opened a considerable gap and signed off from the rest of the pack, as they battled for the leadership for the vast majority of the race. Ultimately, it was Rhodes to complete the winning move on Kligerman.
With 19 laps to go in Stage 2, a robust recovery by Sheldon Creed allowed last season's Rookie of the Year to pass both Rhodes and Klingerman to become the new race leader.
This later revealed to be a key moment in the race, as lap after lap the weather conditions worsened, suggesting an imminent interruption.
Stage 2 came to an end with Creed in first, followed by Rhodes, Crafton, Johnny Sauter, Austin Hill, Eckes, Smith, Kraus, Gray e Todd Gilliland.
Stage 3 would never see the green flag: torrential rain invaded the Kentucky Speedway and, having completed 70 out of the 150 laps, the race was officially declared concluded - thus allowing Sheldon Creed to conquer his first career victory.
Natalie Decker ended P29 after a challenging round, but her presence at Kentucky Speedway behind the wheel of the #44 Niece Motorsports truck after her hospitalization was already an impressive achievement for the 23-year old lady.
Angela Ruch, after sitting out the Pocono round for sponsorship issues, had a clean race in Kentucky and was classified P25, while Jennifer Jo Cobb was unfortunately out of the race on lap 48.
"Last night race ended early from rain, but we had a very fast truck, and we will see you at Texas Motor Speedway next week!" - wrote Decker.
Texas Motor Speedway will in fact host the next round of the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series next weekend.